Euro Daily: June 23, 2021
The final round of European Championship group stage fixtures will feature a quartet of games, as the likes of Portugal and Spain eye crucial 3-point hauls.
Below, check out five things you need to know about Wednesday’s action.
1) Griezmann vs Ronaldo
Kicking off our latest daily feature is an individual showdown set to play out during the crunch clash between Portugal and France. The latter, on the back of Denmark’s drubbing of Russia on Monday, have seen their advancement to the knockout rounds of Euro 2020 confirmed. Reigning champions, Portugal, however, will be desperate for a bounce-back result at the Ferenc Puskas Stadium, after being utterly dominated by Germany last time out.
Fernando Santos’ men will of course depend on talisman and leader Cristiano Ronaldo as their inspiration, with the veteran attacker having continued to add to his eye-watering collection of records over the course of the last week. After netting three times across his country’s first two outings at the tournament, CR7 took his European Championships tally to a hefty 12 goals, three clear of 2nd-placed Michel Platini on the all-time list.
Close behind, though, will be one of those set to line out against Ronaldo later this evening. The man in question? Antoine Griezmann.
French hitman Griezmann was too on target in his nation’s most recent fixture, netting a crucial equaliser against a game Hungary in Budapest. This guided the Barcelona star into 3rd on the all-time Euros goalscorer list, level with England legend Alan Shearer. What makes Griezmann’s tally so truly impressive, though, is the fact that his seven goals have come across just nine appearances, spanning two tournaments.
Could the 30-year-old net once again on Wednesday, to take sole ownership of 3rd spot, close on Ronaldo and, most significantly of all, send Portugal on their way to a potential group stage exit?
2) Back Sweden
Over in Group E, surprise package Sweden will enter Wednesday’s final round of fixtures eyeing up a table-topping finish.
The Swedes, like France, have already made sure of their spot in the Euros’ next round, courtesy of a 4-point haul from their two outings to date. And, with Spain continuing to stutter, who would bet against Janne Andersson’s men marching on as Group E’s finest?
Sweden are one of only three teams remaining in the competition to have not yet conceded a goal, and have gotten the better of upcoming opponents Poland in each of the last five meetings between the countries.
Not only that, but they boast one of Euro 2020’s standout performers to date, in the form of striker Alexander Isak. The Real Sociedad talent is yet to find the net in the tournament, but proved a thorn in the side of both Spain and Slovakia, dazzling with a unique combination of size, athleticism and pure technical ability:
🇸🇪 Alexander Isak leaves defenders in his wake with a dizzying solo run 🔥🔥🔥@HisenseSports | #EUROSkills | #EURO2020 pic.twitter.com/xgfc5noSVK
— UEFA EURO 2020 (@EURO2020) June 18, 2021
3) Hungary’s Bundesliga connection
The other ‘Group of Death’ fixture of the evening is set to play out at the Allianz Arena.
Germany, fresh off the back of a thoroughly deserved win over Portugal, will play host to Hungary, with their eyes firmly set on another 3-point haul. And Die Mannschaft are viewed as clear favourites to secure exactly that, with Hungary, despite a pair of solid performances thus far, having notched just a solitary point, to go along with a -3 goal difference.
The Magyars, though, should not be counted out just yet. Marco Rossi’s men have made clear over the last week that they are unlikely to be overawed by the occasion, with the extent of their heavy defeat at the hands of Portugal having proven altogether undeserved.
Also potentially significant, meanwhile, will be the Hungarians’ experience of German football. A whole host of the country’s stars – Gulacsi, Orban, Szalai, Sallai, Kalmar – play their club football in the Bundesliga. The Magyars, therefore, boast plenty of nous when it comes to German tactics, as well as invaluable experience of lining out at tonight’s venue – the Allianz.
4) Pressure on Enrique
Of the heavyweight nations at the European Championships, several have thus far disappointed, at least to some extent. None, though, have fallen short of expectations quite as badly as Spain.
La Roja, after two games, versus Sweden and Poland no less, have managed to put a paltry two points on the board. This leaves the Spaniards in a previously unfathomable position, aware that defeat to upcoming opponents Slovakia will see them sent packing from the tournament with a whimper.
Should such a situation come to pass, the finger of blame, understandably, will be largely pointed in the direction of Luis Enrique. Whilst the tactician has been let down by his stars to this point, Enrique’s decision-making has proven questionable at best. This of course proved most notable in the Spaniard’s choice of squad for the Euros.
Leaving Sergio Ramos at home has backfired, with the veteran’s experience and leadership qualities having been sorely missed. Real Madrid teammates Isco and Marco Asensio could also have proven useful, in aiding La Roja’s creativity woes.
5) Champions League final face-off
Returning to Group F, the final point worth taking note of ahead of tonight’s round of fixtures surrounds something of a Champions League final rematch in France’s showdown with Portugal.
Europe’s most high-profile club occasion of course played out late last month, between Premier League heavyweights Chelsea and Manchester City. The former eventually emerged victorious, courtesy of a solitary first-half strike from Kai Havertz.
And, in Budapest on Wednesday, a number of Chelsea’s stars will again be aiming to get the better of their City counterparts. This comes with the trio of N’Golo Kante, Olivier Giroud and Kurt Zouma part of both Thomas Tuchel and Didier Deschamps’ respective squads.
Portugal, on the other hand, boast the talents of Sky Blues duo Ruben Dias and Bernardo Silva, both of whom will be expected to feature from the off versus the world champions. Joao Cancelo, though, will be forced to watch on from home, after testing positive for Covid-19.
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